Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Well, my temperature has dropped down out of triple digits, and my voice is sounding much less like Harvey Fierstein. That's progress. However, I'm still not feeling wildly creative, so we'll just pull the top letter off the email stack and answer it here….

I have been reading your blog for about a month now and have to say keep up the good work!...Anyway, I wanted to ask a question and I understand that you probably don't have time to answer all the questions you must get. I was wondering if you, as a sex worker, and particularly as a dominant female, have any sort of body image struggles, or could speak to that piece of being part of the sex industry. I know that in your blog you mention going to the gym and stuff, but I am wondering if having many people find you desirable improves a person's body image. I realize that this could be an incredibly offensive question and I am not so much asking you as in what is your personal experience, but more asking you as an expert. Thank you in advance if you have time to answer this and if not thank you anyway for the lovely blog.

What a sweet letter. This lady is right, I don't have time to answer all the questions I get, but I can answer this one. I'm not sure I'd call myself an expert on women's body image in a general sense, but I am definitely an expert on my body image.

Let me admit one thing right up front: I like having people think I have a pretty body. And it's my opinion that since I'm a sex worker, it is not only a personal but a financial benefit to me to have what the average America thinks of as "a nice figure". Yes, my feminist side deplores the endless barrage of you're-not-good-enough messages that are beamed at women by fashion/beauty magazines. But realistically, I see those types of messages as a "take some, leave the rest" situation. I am actually not a runway model in New York. So do I need to be a size 1 with 10% body fat? No, I don't need that. But – do I think I'd be as personally happy or as professionally successful if I were a size 18? No, I don't. For me, it's a question of keeping everything in balance.

I also think what I do to maintain my body affects how I feel about myself. I am not the jock-ish type by nature. I'd much rather lie on the couch and read a book. But unfortunately, I lack the kind of hyper-speed metabolism that will allow me to do that while looking the way I want to look. And strict dieting is such a negative, pleasure-denying place to live in all the time. I think it makes you a bit neurotic, and it doesn't even work all that well, either. Thus, I've made my peace with the gym. Two hours a day, three days a week, and I can eat pretty much whatever I want without angsting about it. 6 hours out of 168? I can do that.

(Plus, yeah, it's making me healthier, cardiovascular benefit, weight-bearing exercise wards off osteoporosis later in life - yes, I know all that, but right now we're talking about the visible effects.)

So if you call that a "body-image struggle"…Well, okay, then - I guess you could say I'm struggling. But it doesn't feel like psychological trauma to me, it just feels like: this is what I want, this is what I have to do to get it – so, that's what I'll do.

Do I think there's pressure to look a certain way in the sex industry? Yes, although more so in some places than in others. In the strip clubs I danced at, for example, anyone over a size 6 was at a disadvantage, and anyone over a size 10 was pretty much dead in the water. But I see plenty of big beautiful women who are doing just fine as escorts and sensual touch workers. I think just about any woman, regardless of looks/size, can make a living in some aspect of the industry. Obviously, the more people your looks appeal to, the more clients you'll attract based on that, so from a purely business perspective, it behooves you to make your looks as broadly appealing as possible. If you're targeting a narrower potential-client demographic, you may have to compensate for that in some way, like aggressive marketing or superior customer service. However, I witness this being done successfully all time.

Do I think being a professional dominant has affected how I feel about my body? No, not particularly. I do think pro domming is an area where skill and experience are definitely valued, perhaps more highly than in other areas of the sex industry. But a pro-domme's potential clients are certainly not above making their choice based on the mistress's looks. There was a time – I'm talking the 1950's here - when this particular branch of the industry was so taboo, and thus the market so underserved, that you could make money no matter what you looked like. But those days are long gone.

Do I think having people think I'm desirable improves my body image? I wouldn't say "improves", exactly. It's nice, although women of different shapes and sizes than I are also lusted after just as ardently. But the bottom line (no pun intended) is that if you don't feel good about yourself, no amount of praise from other will convince you you're beautiful. I can remember being in strip-club dressing rooms with women who were - I do not lie - goddesses. Fucking beautiful goddesses, with flawless bodies. And they'd stand in front of the mirror and say, "Oh, God, my tits are sagging, my ass is fat, I'm so ugly." It used to kill me that they couldn't see how gorgeous they were. But you couldn't tell 'em – they wouldn't listen. Guys threw handfuls of money at them nightly, howled and whistled and rolled on the floor like dogs in front of these girls, but…"I'm so ugly!" If you have a negative image in your head, that's all you'll see when you look in the mirror.
So, you have to feel good about myself, and then having other people praise you will be icing on your cake. The trick, of course, is to figure out just what you need to feel good about yourself. And that's likely to be more about what's above your shoulders than below it.

No comments: